Asian stocks rise as Chinese trade data beats expectations

By ANNABELLE LIANGEnergyAssociated Press

Asian financial markets advanced Monday after China released better-than-expected trade data for May, though worries remain over trade negotiations between the Washington and Beijing.

Reopening after a market holiday, Hong Kong's Hang Seng picked up 2.2% to 27,552.09 and the Shanghai Composite index was 1% higher at 2,855.77. Japan's Nikkei 225 advanced 1.1% to 21,111.38, while the Kospi in South Korea rose 0.9% to 2,091.72. Shares rose in Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia. Australian markets were closed.

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China announced Monday that its exports grew 1.1% in May from a year earlier, trouncing expectations of a 3.8% decline by analysts polled by FactSet. But the country's imports slid 8.5% from a year earlier, a far softer performance than predicted by analysts. Investors had expected both indicators to shrink given softening external conditions.

Stocks in Asia made early gains on news that U.S. President Donald Trump had suspended plans to impose tariffs on Mexico after the two countries arrived at an agreement on immigration.

The agreement with Mexico "appears to be a lower hanging fruit for the Trump administration," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.

"The U.S.-China trade conflict meanwhile reckoned to remain an ongoing concern that looks have been caught in stalemate," she added.

Over the weekend, financial leaders of the Group of 20 major economies met in Fukuoka, Japan, and pledged to protect global growth. They said in a joint communique that risks from trade and geopolitical tensions were "intensifying."

The communique didn't single out the tariffs battle between the U.S. and China, but leaders signaled separately that it was the No. 1 concern.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met China's central bank Gov. Yi Gang on the sidelines of the same gathering on Sunday. The two countries have concluded 11 rounds of trade talks with no agreement.

Mnuchin said on Twitter that the meeting was constructive and they had "candid discussion on trade issues." He did not give further details.

On Friday, U.S. stocks capped off their best week since late November and reversed most of their losses in May. Traders took a lackluster jobs report as good news, as it was seen as increasing the odds of the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates in the coming months.

The benchmark S&P 500 index rebounded 1.1% to 2,873.34 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1% to 25,983.94. The Nasdaq composite climbed 1.7% to 7,742.10. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks rose 0.7% to 1,514.39.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 28 cents to $54.27 per barrel. The contract advanced $1.40 to $53.99 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose 22 cents to $63.51 a barrel. It added $1.62 to $63.29 per barrel in the previous session.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 108.48 Japanese yen from 108.17 yen late Friday. The euro weakened to $1.1313 from $1.1335.